What are the different types of computer storage? Computer storage is important because it means that the computer doesn’t have to be reconfigured every time it is to be used. There are different types of computer storage at the computer’s disposal. The classification of computer storage can be based on their core material, their hierarchy in the computer and other properties. One such property is volatility: volatile storage loses its data as soon as it’s powered down while non-volatile storage preserves its data after being powered down.
Types of Computer Storage Based on Hierarchy
Computer storage can be classified into three broad categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.
Primary Computer storage include RAM (random access memory), registers and caches. Registers are the fastest storage sites and have very many subtypes including address, data, control and vector registers. RAM are volatile storage units that facilitate the rapid access of data while caches are the intermediaries between the blurry speeds of registers and the main memory. The primary computer storage is closest to the CPU and are essential for the computer to boot and perform essential functions.
Secondary computer storage is not directly accessible by the CPU and requires I/O channels to be accessed. They are also non-volatile. An internal mass storage device is often used as a secondary storage device. Other secondary storage devices include optical drives such as DVDs, flash memories.
Tertiary storage devices are among the rarely encountered types of computer storage as they are used in archiving huge stacks of rarely accessed information. They usually have a robotic arm which assists in loading the appropriate media from a huge collection.
Secondary and tertiary devices have relatively slow data fetching rates when compared with primary memory, but they often have greater capacities. Hard disks nowadays have memory sizes exceeding 1Terabyte, and it’s not uncommon to find thumb drive (flash memories) exceeding 32Gigabytes.
Types of Computer Storage Based on Fundamental Technology
Computer storage devices can also be grouped into three categories based on the technologies used to build them; they can be semiconductors, optical or magnetic.
Semiconductor have integrated circuits on printed circuit boards, containing numerous capacitors and transistors. These devices can be volatile or non-volatile. Volatile semiconductor devices are primarily used for primary memory, such as RAM while non-volatile semiconductor devices have been prominently used in flash memories and more recently as solid state devices which are gradually replacing optical hard disk drives, because they occupy less space and access data faster.
Magnetic storage devices use changes on a magnetized surface to store data. They are non-volatile. Magnetic storage devices are distributed from primary to tertiary storage devices. Hard disk drives, floppies, and magnetic tapes are examples of this type of computer storage.
Optical storage devices use lasers to imprint data on a circular disc. They are non-volatile and have several subtypes. These are CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. There are also hybrid magneto-optical discs which have a magnetic surface.
There are also less common and mostly outdated types of computer storage such as punched papers or optical tapes.